ByJohn Mountain, writer at
John Mountain

Directed by Matt Reeves

Written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Based on the novel “La Planète des Singes” by Pierre Boulle and by characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver.

When I was growing up I saw the original quintet of films in the Planet of the Apes series and was able to watch and enjoy them to a certain extent of the definition of the word. Like everyone else I was blown away by the original film and I also was a big fan of the third film, Escape from the Planet of the Apes. Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of the Planet of the Apes were strong entries but by the time the final film in the series-Battle for the Planet of the Apes-came along it felt as if the filmmakers weren’t trying anymore. There was a remake of the original film directed by Tim Burton that merely left us yearning for the older films and after that we all thought that we had seen the last-or so it seemed-of the apes. Rise of the Planet of the Apes demonstrated to us that there is new life in an old franchise. That life is extended fully supported with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes-a film that takes all of the charm and action of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and amps it up to 12. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is that rare example (The Godfather Part II and Aliens must be mentioned) of a sequel not only holding its own but surpassing the original film in terms of storytelling, acting and of course box office profits. As of my writing this the film has beaten its chest on the way to a $73 million dollar opening weekend and believe me it has earned every penny.

Ten years have passed since the events of ‘Rise‘. The Simian flu hinted at in that film has had time to spread around the globe and the human race has been all but wiped out. Those who have survived live crowded in a state of dystopia. The apes, led by Caesar-now with a wife, son and newborn of his own-live peacefully in their own community in the redwoods away from the humans and they rely on them for nothing and stay far from them. Once an initial contact is made between two of the apes and a human male that separation is broken and an uneasy truce is formed between the two communities. I don’t believe that it was any accident as to the way things play out in ‘Dawn‘ as it the same as the way that countries conduct business-deals are made by one group, the humans, with conditions from the apes. The humans break those conditions and are asked to leave but then are able to make things better by offering their own conditions. Meanwhile, both camps have their people-or human-like simians-that are mistrustful of the other and cause a rift in the truce that is established. For the humans it is both Carver, who voices his disdain for the apes and is banished from their camp after smuggling in forbidden weapons; and Dreyfus, who can’t be faulted as he believes that what he is doing is best for the survival of the human race. On the other hand there is Koba, the scarred bonobo and right hand to Caesar. Koba hates humans for the torture that was inflicted upon him in the name of lab experiments. One of the strongest scenes in the film is when Caesar mentions that the humans are there to do ‘human work’ and Koba angrily spits his words back at him while pointing to the various scars from the horrors done to his own body. Unlike the human Carver, whose hatred is based on his own stupidity, Koba’s hatred drives him to betrayal and murder of his own kind to initiate war between apes and humans. If Caesar is willing to get along with humans then Koba is even more determined to imprison them or wipe them even if he has to betray his own species.

There was not one moment in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes that I found to be repetitive or even worse, boring. The action in the film is intense but never to the point of being shoved down your throat the way that certain summer blockbusters *cough cough Transformers cough cough* are known to do. My wife and I took our eleven year-old grandson and he remained quiet throughout most of the film. That in itself is the sign of a good film as it takes a lot to keep him quiet while watching anything. My wife also enjoyed the use of ASL-American Sign Language; which I myself have deemed as Ape Sign Language for this film.

If I can be serious for a moment let me say that a film like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes relies strongly on the strength of its effects, in this case which would be motion capture and CGI. The only flaw that I spotted in the effects was for a brief second during the bear attack scene early in the film. Let it also be said that motion capture relies on the strength of the performers and as with ‘Rise‘, King Kong and his role as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films that strength is never more evident than with Andy Serkis as Caesar. Serkis has said that in the first film he based his movements and expressions on those of apes and that his performance here is based more on human movement and gestures. The motion capture acting was excellent from all actors involved, especially Toby Kebbell as Koba. However, it is Serkis who raises Dawn of the Planet of the Apes from a good film to a great one. It’s a shame that the monkeys in Hollywood can’t seem to acknowledge his talent. Great acting is great acting whether it is as a human or as an ape.


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